Chapter 1: The nature of law, and its relationship with religion, in Islam
Islamic law is one of the three major world legal systems after the common law and civil law systems. It is applicable, at least in part, in more than 55 Muslim countries and in a number of non-Muslim countries, such as India. The Islamic legal system originated in the Middle East in the late sixth century, and has developed mainly in that region. However the modern Islamic world, and hence potential applications of the Islamic legal system, extend well beyond the Middle East into Asia, Africa and Europe. Similar to other legal systems, the nature of Islamic law and its concept, meaning and sources are the subject of an extensive body of literature and contested views. The nature of religion, and particularly the definition of ‘Islam’, is the subject of contested views as well, given the relationship between law and religion in Islam. Most Muslims consider law to be divine and sacred. Legal principles revealed in the Quran and the Sunna (traditions of Prophet Mohammad) are immune from critical evaluation. Notwithstanding this fundamental characteristic of Islamic law, Muslim jurists have long extensively examined the application and interpretation of basic legal principles of Islamic law, and the nature of law in Islam. Just as the religion of Islam is not monolithic, neither is its legal system. Indeed the principles of Sharia are the subject of contested views throughout the history of Islam as well as in the contemporary world.
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